Bill passes part of Senate

The University asked for $126 million more than it received last year.

Than Tibbetts

Most of the University’s requested money remained intact when the State Senate’s higher education budget bill cleared the Higher Education Budget Division on Thursday.

The nine committee members voted unanimously to approve the bill, which includes $1.2 billion for the University.

The University requested $126 million more than it received in last year’s budget. This bill would give the University a little more than $121 million of that request.

The omnibus higher education bill will be heard in the Senate Finance Committee today.

Richard Pfutzenreuter, the University’s chief financial officer, offered “heartfelt thanks” to the higher education committee for funding higher education in the state and the University.

His comments contrast with Wednesday’s reaction to the House’s version of the bill, which only funds $102 million of the University’s additional $126 million request.

Pfutzenreuter said University officials are pleased the Senate higher education committee gave the University almost as much funding as it requested, especially considering the difficult times the University’s budget has had in the last few years.

Some discussion arose when two Minneapolis residents spoke against a section of the bill that defines the qualifications for resident tuition.

The bill states students must attend high school for three years in Minnesota, graduate from a state high school and be enrolled at a state public college or university to receive resident tuition.

The Minneapolis residents said the section would encourage illegal immigration and promote cultural dishonesty and that the section was “fundamentally unconstitutional.”

The bill received a few amendments, including one stating the Higher Education Services Office must attempt to negotiate a reciprocity agreement with Wisconsin in which Wisconsin students’ tuition would not be less than Minnesota residents’ tuition.

Wisconsin students in Minnesota pay approximately $1,100 less than Minnesota residents, according to January’s Minnesota tuition reciprocity update.

Susan Heegaard, director of the office, said the office is working with Wisconsin on reciprocity agreements.

As the committee neared its vote, Sen. Larry Pogemiller, DFL-Minneapolis, congratulated and thanked the committee for its hard work on the bill and especially for funding the University.